6 Beginner Voice Over Mistakes and How to Fix Them
Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they’re first starting out. While making at least one beginner voice over mistake is a rite of passage in this industry, what sets successful voice actors apart is their ability to dust themselves off and address the issue head-on.
For advice on how to tackle some of the more common voice over mistakes, we turned to the Voices Insiders to share a few of their best fixes. The Voices Insiders are a team of professional voice actors who share their expertise with the Voices community each month to help talent of all levels develop in their voice acting careers.
Read on to discover recommendations from the Voices Insiders for fixing avoidable beginner voice over mistakes — so you don’t always have to learn the hard way!
Mistake #1: Using low-quality equipment
When starting out, it can be tempting to opt for the lowest cost equipment as you consider whether voice over is the right career choice for you. More often than not, this purchase decision will lead to disappointment as you’ll soon find these cheaper, low-quality options aren’t always up to the task of professional voice recording, especially when it comes to your microphone.
While purchasing the cheapest available microphone isn’t a wise decision, buying the most expensive mic on the market likely isn’t the best option either. The best course of action to avoid this costly voice over mistake when outfitting your home studio is to research and test out a few options before you commit. Finding the right equipment boils down to what your needs are, what features are an absolute must, what features are ‘nice-to-have,’ and, ultimately, finding something suitable that fits your budget.
Previously, we asked the Voices Insiders for their advice on building a beginner home studio setup. We recommend this as a starting point to find product recommendations from seasoned voice actors, plus there are a few cost-saving tips.
Mistake #2: Relying on editing to fix echoes and reverberations
When it comes to editing and processing your audio files, less is more. In fact, using too much noise reduction to repair your sound can sometimes do more damage to your audio quality than leaving the original recording intact. When noise reduction is overused, the audio can become ‘hollow’ and ‘echoey,’ which is a trademark beginner voice over mistake easily recognized by clients.
To fix unwanted background noises like echoes or low humming, treat the issue at the source. The first step is to find an optimal space in your home to record, away from distractions and the sounds of daily life. A closet, office, or bedroom will do the trick. Once you have settled on your recording space, your next step is to treat it. Heavy blankets, duvets, and rugs are affordable options you likely already have in your home and can be used to drape around your recording space to treat reverb. For more soundproofing and acoustic treatment tips, read our interview with Bob Breen.
After you have treated your recording space, use the ‘clap test’ to check your work. If you clap once while standing in the middle of your room and hear an echo or any other sound, you’ll know there is more work to be done.
With background noise out of the picture, there will be little to no editing or processing required. Now, you’re free to spend that extra time auditioning for more voice over jobs and wowing potential clients with high-quality sound.
“A mistake I made was relying on post editing to fix reverb before I had a good place to record. Listening back to these auditions is truly scary. A better fix to reverb is properly treating your recording space. This should be your first priority.”
Mistake #3: Mouth noises in recordings
Mouth noises are those pesky pops, clicks, and smacks that can sometimes be heard in voice over recordings. They’re also one of the most noticeable beginner voice over mistakes out there.
Mouth noises are caused by the tongue, teeth, and saliva working together to create sticky sounds as we speak. In everyday conversation, we generally don’t hear these common mouth noises when we speak, but voice over recordings will amplify these unwanted sounds, so prevention is key.
Dehydration is the root cause of unwanted mouth noises, so the best defense is to stay properly hydrated. That doesn’t mean guzzling water right before you step in front of your mic — in fact, too much water intake can lead to excess mouth noises as well! Instead, ensure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Aim to drink a minimum of eight glasses of water over the course of the day, or at least 64 ounces. Your individual needs will depend on your activity level, environment, and other lifestyle factors so be sure to adjust your intake as necessary.
When performing for an extended period of time, the sticky mouth noises are bound to return. Between auditions, remember to take small sips and keep up with your hydration to keep those clicks and pops at bay.
“One mistake is having a ton of mouth noise in recordings. It can be gross and embarrassing to have a recording ruined by clicks, pops, and other weird noises. A couple of ways I mitigate the noise is to 1) hydrate, 2) warm up thoroughly before recording, 3) brush my teeth, and 4) run my recordings through iZotope to get rid of any additional clicks and pops.”
Mistake #4: Having a poor quality demo
Your demo is your voice over resume. It’s your calling card. So when you don’t put your best foot forward in your demos, you’re bound to miss out on opportunities.
A proper voice over demo not only has clean and crisp audio but it also instantly hooks listeners and shows off your vocal skills. Working with a professional voice over coach will help prepare you to record your first demo and ensure you are hitting all the bases. These voice over professionals are a helpful resource for voice actors of all levels to unlock new skills, identify areas for improvement, and to catch other beginner voice over mistakes early on. After working with a voice over coach, you’ll be ready to record winning demos in no time.
Browse through our collection of voice over sample scripts to find royalty-free scripts in a variety of different categories and roles to get started.
In the world of online casting, slating your voice over demo isn’t a necessary practice. Slating originated as a branding exercise to let casting directors know who is behind the voice over they are hearing, but now that information is readily available beside the audio player. Instead of devoting those precious seconds at the start of your demo to redundant information, jump straight away into the hook. Clients can only devote so much time to listen, so make it count!
When it comes to demos, don’t rely on one demo to do it all. Clients are busy people and don’t always have time to listen through an entire demo reel to hear every vocal quality and role you are able to perform. Instead, split your demo by themes or skill sets such as online videos, elearning, announcer, or conversational. When clients search for voice actors with these specific qualities on Voices, your tailored demos will put you in a better position to be found and invited to audition for jobs via JobMatch.
Watch this video to learn more:
“Having an amateurishly produced demo that’s too long, poor sound quality, and/or bad or inappropriate copy is a beginner mistake. Beginners need to be sure they are getting good advice from a professional voice coach to produce a solid first demo. Listen to lots of demos of people who will be your competition so you know what producers and clients will expect from you.”
Mistake #5: Setting the audio volume too low
When casting for a voice over project, clients typically listen to a series of voice over auditions. So when your volume is set too low compared to the other auditions you’re up against, you’re putting your reads at a disadvantage.
To fix this common voice over mistake, normalize your audio to -1dB or -3dB to ensure your auditions are loud enough for the client to hear.
Watch this video to learn how to set your microphone gain/levels before you record:
“The mistake I made as a beginner that affected my career the most and kept me from winning auditions in the beginning was ‘volume.’ Through speaking with the team at Voices, they showed me my auditions were 6-10dB quieter than my competitors. In the audition game ‘loudness’ is equated with better audio ‘quality’ to many of the people listening to the auditions. When I raised my overall loudness by 6dB, I quadrupled my short lists and tripled my income almost immediately. At that point I didn’t change anything else about delivery, only overall audio level. It is a great idea to find an audio engineer or someone experienced in the industry to look over your auditions and help you match the competition with the perceived ‘audio quality!’”
Mistake #6: Awkward or inauthentic reads
Voice acting takes more than natural talent. You can have the most pleasant sounding voice in the world, but if your delivery isn’t spot on, you’re not likely to book the job.The good news is raw talent can be honed with the help of a voice over coach and plenty of practice.
If a voice over coach is outside of your budget, or you are looking to supplement your voice over training, there are a handful of exercises you can do to enhance your vocal abilities and boost your comfort level in front of the mic.
The conversational read is the most often requested and most difficult voice over style to master. To get more comfortable with your voice, try reading books, passages, or even recipes aloud. Pretend you’re reading to others, and if you’re daring, actually read to other people! With practice, you’ll settle into a natural rhythm and have a better understanding of what it takes to deliver a conversational read.
When it comes to character work or mastering new roles or vocal styles, one way to improve your skill set is through exposure and repetition. As you listen to the radio in your car, try to repeat the inflection and pacing of the voice over you hear during commercials or try practicing the animated voices you hear on Saturday morning cartoons. Once you are comfortable, try putting your own personal spin on similar scripts and work to carve out your own sound and approach to voice over using this inspiration.
Impersonations are perfectly fine as you practice and work toward gaining new skills, but when it comes to demos and auditions, authenticity is what will set you apart.
“People will hire you for your voice! Not how well you emulate others. It’s easy to listen to voices that are booking and say, ‘that’s what I need to sound like to succeed.’ Just be yourself. No one else can be you. If you’re right for the job, they’ll book you.”
“Please, please do NOT do characters or impersonations on your demo that you do not do really well. A director friend of mine received a demo tape many years ago and thought the guy did some very interesting character work until she realized HE thought he was doing celebrity impersonations! The demo ended up in the trash because she could tell he had a bad ‘ear’ and wouldn’t be able to take direction.”
“One mistake is thinking that it’s about your voice and not about your delivery — it’s 5% about your actual vocal cords and 95% about your performance.”
“Stop projecting! In the beginning my tendency was to make my voice loud to create energy in my read. This will tire out your voice quickly and make your auditions sound like the announcer no one wants anymore. Even today I will have to stop myself mid-read and say, ‘who are you talking to? Why are you talking so loudly?’ Pretend your mic is the face of the one person who is listening to you and use your inflection and emotion to drive the energy of the read instead of speaking up like you are addressing a crowd of people.”
More advice from the Voices Insiders
Now that we’ve covered six of the most common voice over mistakes, the Voices Insiders are here to help with more advice to progress in your voice over career.
“Voice over isn’t a get rich quick career. It takes time to build any business and voice over is hard. There is huge competition and some amazingly talented people out there you will be competing against. Patience and fortitude is key.”
“Once, when I first started in voice over, I was participating in a live session over the phone with a client. The session went really well and the client was happy with the takes we got. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized that I didn’t have my microphone plugged into my preamp! The whole session was recorded on my Mac microphone.
One way I remedied this mistake was to have a checklist posted in my booth of things I need to remember to do before recording.”
“Don’t discount the small jobs with small budgets. I have met so many faithful clients that have kept me on for years from winning a $150 or $200 job. When you show quality and ease of service in the small jobs they keep coming back and many times their projects and budgets grow as well. I have also had new clients reach out based on recommendations from these ‘smaller’ clients!”
“Words of encouragement are always important: Any problem is easily fixed and you will be all the better for learning something new.”
How did you fix a voice over mistake you were making? Let us know in the comments!